I don't think anyone would believe I actually visited Hong Kong if I didn't make at least one trip to a dim sum restaurant. I mean, it's pretty much the holy grail of the push cart right? The place with which all dim sum hails from and so on. Anyway, since I had put off visiting any dim sum places all the while I've been staying in Taiwan, it was only fair that I'd get to go multiple times. The first time was at a place called 稻香超級漁港 on Nathan Road, which translates to "The aroma of rice super harbor restaurant," or so I think. With a name like that, how could I go wrong?
First dish is always 燒賣 (shau mai). I forget why, but for some reason, all the dishes were considered 小點 that day, so everything was uniform in price. Don't ask me the price, I don't really recall that. I was too happy stuffing my face with pork & shrimp balls.
I pretty much went with all the conventional dishes. I wanted a standard of comparison (which I'll get to later). Their turnip cakes were amazingly soft in the center, but with an impossibly crispy outer skin. Deceptively difficult to pick up with chopsticks, the eventual struggle is ultimately rewarded with the stark contrast in feel. They should get bonus points for the unknown sauce. Not oyster sauce, not soy sauce, and not hot sauce, but some perfect blend of the three.
I don't know what this is called in English. It's 叉燒腸粉 (cha shao chang fen), or basically char siu wrapped in rice noodles. I love this dish so much for a few reasons. Char siu is like the greatest of all meats... it's semi-sweet pork that's bright red, and it's wrapped in rice noodles... which is pretty much the combination of everything good in Chinese cuisine. Plus it's really hard to screw up. I thought that I had already experienced really good takes on this dish in NYC and NJ, but I was wrong. When it's made to order, with freshly steamed noodles and just finished pork, the dish is transcendental in flavor. Nothing against the places in the US that serve it by pushcart, but a lot is lost in time of transit.
Called 潮州粉果 (chao zhou fen guo), these steamed dumplings are filled with water chestnuts and other crap I don't really recall. Why? I didn't really like them. Hm, why'd we order them you might ask? Probably because my grandmother was flipping out that all I was having was fried pork and fried shrimp. Well, this was to appease her. There... healthy food that doesn't taste all that good.
Ahhh, more char siu. In the form of steamed buns. Let me reiterate the fact that HK does a mean char siu. The same sweet bright red pork is stuffed inside pillowy pockets of white dough and steamed to perfection. Softer than Taiwanese 饅頭, and with a filling sweeter than what I've come to expect in either Taipei or NYC, these were definitely good. Nothing life changing, but certainly worthy of use as a standard to which other char siu buns can be compared.
Goddamnit I'm bad at translations. They're called 鹹水餃 in Mandarin, or I guess 'salty water dumplings' if you go by literal translation. Whatever, it doesn't really matter, I'm sure you've seen them if you've been to dim sum. They're fried pockets of sticky rice with shrimp and pork and other assorted elements inside. Normally larger and cut open with a pair of scissors, I was kind of surprised to find miniature golden puffs placed on the table. Still, the concept is the same, and the execution was spot on. The fact that they still squirted hot oil upon biting was a nice reminder that these were just made.
And of course, to close out the meal. Sesame balls. Filled with lotus paste. The one dish I didn't really like. Primarily due to their diminutive size, the shell to filling ratio is skewed in the wrong direction. Yeah, I'm nitpicking a bit here, but given the choice, everyone likes more filling. Although the multicolored sesame seeds were a nice aesthetic touch.
Basically, dim sum in HK is fantastic. Not because they make outrageous changes to any of the dishes or anything, and not even because they prepare stuff more meticulously. Nope, I'm pretty sure the main difference between dim sum in Taiwan, the US, and HK is the fact that they do everything to order. Dishes are made as you request them. None of your dishes arrive lukewarm or steamed to death, but rather... everything is exactly as you'd expect and more. Oh, and it's cheaper. I think everything I ate (which is everything here + doubles of some dishes) ended up being $20 for three people, and that's at a somewhat nice restaurant.